MLB released the 2021 Hall of Fame Ballot this week. There were some new names on the list, as well as some returning candidates. Thus in this article, we list our selection for the 2021 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot. (A corresponding video on the Laracuente Ledger Network on our Youtube channel will cover this article.)
Rules for Selections
In making our selections, we will follow the same rules as the BBWAA. (Baseball Writers Association of America.) Which means the maximum number of candidates that can be chosen is ten. (The Laracuente Ledger Network selections are in alphabetical order.)
Barry Bonds has the statistical markers that usually garner easy entry into the Hall of Fame. For his career, Bonds has the most home runs with 762 homeruns. Along with 2935 career hits, 1996 RBIs. And a Major League record 2558 Base on Balls. (Of which a Major League record 688 Walks were Intentional.) The stats are there for Bonds. Barry’s delay in reaching the iconic status of Hall of Famer is based on PED suspicion.
The use of Performance Enhancing Drugs has not been proven for Bonds (& Roger Clemens). However, in the court of public opinion, the verdict is guilty as charged. 2021 is the ninth year on the ballot for Bonds, and he will likely not reach the 75% plateau needed to be crowned a member of the Hall of Fame. That being said, there is little doubt that Barry Bonds belongs in the Hall of Fame. Even if you removed the years from 1998-2007, Bonds would still be a no-doubt Hall of Famer.
Roger Clemens’ case for the Hall of Fame is nearly identical to that of Barry Bonds. Both men are mired in PEDs controversy and suspicion. And just like Bonds, the case has never been definitely proven against Clemens. During a prominently offensive era, Roger pitched and ended his career with an ERA of 3.12 and 354 Wins. (Despite my thoughts on pitcher Wins, this is an impressive number of victories.) Clemens dominated his era, as evidenced by striking out 4672 better across 4916.2 career innings. And just like with Barry Bonds, had the PED suspicions not surrounded them, they would already be in the hallowed corridors of the MLB Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame case for Todd Helton has it’s own set of controversies. Simply put, Todd Helton is penalized for playing with one team for his career. Allow me to explain, if Helton played for the St. Louis Cardinals or the San Francisco Giants or the Atlanta Braves and had the same stats, he would be in the Hall of Fame. However, Todd Helton played for the Colorado Rockies. The elevated altitude has and will continue to hurt the case for Todd Helton to make the Hall.
Using the JAWS system of Jay Jaffe, the Hall of Fame determination mark is a WAR of 55. Todd Helton’s career WAR is 61.8 (according to BaseballReference.com.) Helton is a three-time Gold Glove winner, four-time Silver Slugger, five-time All-Star, who’s garnered MVP votes six times in his career. Whatever was potentially added to Helton’s ability in Colorado would adversely affect him on the road. And given the adverse effects on the body from the high altitude, Todd Helton on the road was still a high-caliber player.
The case for Torii Hunter and the Hall of Fame is a challenging but not impossible case to make. Torii Hunter played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball. During his career, Hunter earned five All-Star appearances along with two Silver Slugger. The big case for Torii Hunter rests on his nine Gold Gloves. When looking at just the offensive numbers, Torii’s case is fragile. However, when adding in the defensive prowess, Hunter’s case gains massive ground. Torii Hunter is unlikely to make the Hall on the first ballot. However, his candidacy merits a more in-depth study. And therefore would get my vote to stave off the 5% fall-off ruling.
Much like Torii Hunter’s case, Andruw Jones’ case relies heavily upon defense, but he has better offensive numbers. Andruw Jones would compile a stellar career. The ten-time Gold Glove winner was also a five-time All-Star and Silver Slugger winner. Jones would also finish with MVP votes in five of his seventeen seasons, including finishing as high as second in 2005. Over Andruw’s seventeen-year career, he would hit 434 home runs, drive in nearly 1300 RBIs, and have over 1930 hits. And while the offensive numbers alone wouldn’t merit inclusion into the most prestigious Hall of Fame in sports history. Adding in Jones’ defensive excellence gives Andruw a worth Hall of Fame case.
Jeff Kent has an interesting Hall of Fame case. Kent would hit 377 homeruns, which is among the best for second basemen. Jeff would also possess an OPS+ of 136 for his 17 year Major League career. Having that high a level of OPS+ for that long shows a level of consistency and dominance. And while Kent will not be confused with a Gold Glover, he wasn’t the defensive liability some pundits think him to be in his career. Jeff Kent is one of the best second basemen in Major League Baseball history and deserves his rightful place in Cooperstown.
And in what seems to be a trend on my Hall of Fame selections, Scott Rolen is a defense-first candidate. However, while Scott’s defense is his major calling card, his offensive game wasn’t that of a slouch. Injuries derailed the once easily projected Hall of Fame career. But Rolen was still able to place himself convincingly in the discussion. Over Rolen’s 17-year career, Scottie would hit 316 homeruns, drive in 1287 RBIs, and have an OPS+ of 122 and a WAR of 70.1 (according to BaseballReference.com).
Now defense is where Rolen shines. But let’s be clear, defensive metrics are tricky to quantify, to say the least. And they become even more difficult trying to retrograde them. However, I say all that to bring up the fact that Scott Rolen has an RTOT or Total Zone Rating of 140 for his 17-year career. Mike Schmidt, who is often considered one of the best defensive third basemen in history (and rightfully so), has an RTOT of 129. Scott’s defensive prowess brings him to the Hall of Fame’s door, and adding his offense gets him in the Hall. At least in my book.
The ever-controversial Curt Schilling easily makes my list. When it comes to Curt’s Hall of Fame qualifications, his Twitter account means nothing to me. This list is based on the merits of what happened on the field. And many of the BBWAA‘s writers like to use the “character clause” to disqualify guys from entering the Hall. But no borderline candidate gets in because he’s a nice guy. So based solely on Curt’s on-field contributions, he’s a Hall of Famer.
Curt Schilling would have an ERA of 3.46 over his 20 years career. And Schilling would also pitch to the tune of a FIP of 3.23 and an ERA+ of 127. But Curt’s biggest calling card is his postseason accolades. Across 12 postseason series, Schilling would have an ERA of 2.23, which is more than a full run lower than his regular-season numbers. It’s time to put the off the field issues away and stop withholding a deserved honor from the on-field Curt Schilling.
There are few names above Omar Vizquel on that list when thinking about the best defensive shortstops in the game. As Omar Vizquel’s case gets dissected, many will claim that he was a lesser Ozzie Smith. That Omar wasn’t as good offensively or defensively as Ozzie. But that comparison also kept Tim Raines out of the Hall of Fame for far too long for being compared to Rickey Henderson. Omar is a guy that you wanted the ball hit to when the game was on the line. Everyone knew that a ball hit in Omar’s direction was going to be an out.
Over the course of his 24-year Major League career, Omar would accumulate over 2800 hits and win 11 Gold Gloves. Yes, Omar’s Hall of Fame case rests on defense and longevity. Nevertheless, that does not take away from the player and his case for being in the Hall of Fame.
When baseball pundits discuss Billy Wagner’s case, they always bring up the lack of innings, comparatively speaking. However, if you examine the numbers minus the overall innings, Wagner has a Hall of Fame case. For context, let’s compare Billy Wagner to Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman. Now putting aside the save total differences, Wagner actually has better peripheral numbers. ￼In 1089.1 innings of work, Hoffman has 1133 strikeouts over his 18-year career.
Now in Wagner’s 16-year career and across 903 innings pitched, Wagner has 1196 strikeouts. And according to BaseballReference.com, Trevor Hoffman has a career ERA+ of 141. (League average is 100). Billy Wagner’s career ERA+ is 187. What about the FIP? (Fielding Independent Pitching) Trevor Hoffman has a FIP of 3.08, and Wagner’s FIP is 2.73. So when it comes to Billy Wagner, there’s no doubt looking at his numbers, outside of total innings, he should be a member of the Hall of Fame.
Who Makes Your Hall of Fame Ballot?
This is a fun exercise to participate in each and every offseason. Having to follow the same rules as the BBWAA can make this a challenging endeavor. But as you examine each and every candidate, you make judgment calls and have personal biases that factor into the decision. So comment your list down below.
And once again, be sure to check out our corresponding Hall of Fame installment of the Baseball Banter Broadcast on the Laracuente Ledger Network on YouTube.